Have you ever wondered whether the meat you buy from a Halal butcher is Halal? At least some Muslims in different parts of the world realize that the meat they consume may not be as Halal as is generally considered. Some of them work hard to make sure that the animals they slaughter are treated well.
During our conversations with the Halal industry professionals that a growing number of ecologically-conscious Muslims think deeply about whether the Halal food found at various grocery stores meets the basic religious requirements.
According to Islamic law, livestock must be slaughtered by making a horizontal cut across the throat with a sharp knife while evoking Allah.
People often ask us questions about whether it Is halal if chickens are killed in a mechanical assembly line? Is it halal if the animal lives a miserable life while never seeing sunlight? Is it halal if livestock feed is mixed with animal parts? These Muslims are even looking at how farmworkers are treated.
We found the following article The Daily Beast an interesting read for a lot of Muslims around the world.
“Halal is a starting point,” said Nuri Friedlander, a Muslim chaplain at Harvard University, who helped start the website Beyond Halal, which examines these issues. “In the context of meat, halal refers to how the livestock was killed. The starting point is, it died well. But it’s really important if we have an ethical conversation about how animals were treated during their lives.”
The reason why some Muslims are asking these questions is that large swaths of the halal meat industry are a mess, said Mufti Abdullah Nana, an Islamic scholar and president of Halal Advocates, which educates on halal and food ethics. Animals are being fed possible animal byproducts that may contain blood and even pork, farmers confine animals in abusive conditions, and some businesses barely pay lip service to Islamic law by cutting corners and not performing correct slaughtering methods, Nana said.
For example, 90 percent of halal chickens in America are killed mechanically with a rate as high as 180 chickens a minute by some machines, said Nana, who has visited dozens of slaughterhouses in America. Unfortunately, some of these machines with rotating blades are not precise and may improperly cut the chickens’ throat, which can cause needless suffering and an unsightly, lingering demise — the opposite of halal which calls for a swift death with little discomfort.
Other shady practices include non-halal meat being marketed as halal. Some factories do not employ Muslims on the premises who can oversee the process, Nana said.
“We insist on a higher standard. We believe it must be slaughtered by a human. It’s more humane. Machines can miscut,” he said.
Muslims must meet basic halal requirements but the Prophet Muhammad also commanded that people treat animals well and not abuse them, said Nana, who stakes his point of view on animal welfare from the prophet’s many sayings.
“Our Prophet (pbuh), he emphasized the kind treatment of animals,” he said.
Hussein Rashid, a professor at Hofstra University and an Islamic scholar, said these debates have been raging within the Muslim community, who are fragmented on what should be eaten. Other issues include whether stunning an animal before death is Halal and the age-old debate on whether it’s okay to eat meat slaughtered by Jews and Christians.
Joe M. Regenstein, a professor of food science at Cornell University and a consultant for many halal and kosher organizations and companies, acknowledged there are problems within the halal meat industry because Muslims have not been willing to pay extra for meat that has been certified halal by an overseeing body, such as the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, the country’s largest halal certification organization, which he consults for. A label simply saying meat is halal is not enough to be truly acceptable— but it is for some people who want cheap meat, he said.
“Sometimes people cut corners. You get what you pay for,” said Regenstein.
There are some examples of halal businesses trying to buck the mainstream. Honest Chops, a butcher shop in Manhattan, opened earlier this year and offers humanely raised, all-natural, hand-slaughtered meat, said Anas Hassan, a manager.
Saffron Road is a big player in the growing all-natural halal business with its frozen food entrees, which can be found at Whole Foods. Norwich Meadows Farms in Upstate New York, which started in 1998, also offers organic meat.
For Muslims who don’t have access to these organic halal businesses, they can look up purveyors on the Halal Advocates website, which certifies ethically-sound slaughterhouses and businesses, or through personal contacts such as Friedlander, who found a Muslim farmer who sells hand-slaughtered, organic meat.
“I don’t want to eat animals that were systematically abused their whole lives. From a spiritual practice, I didn’t want to get that into my body,” said Friedlander, who is also pursuing his doctorate on Islamic law and animal slaughter at Harvard.
As for Yasin, he strives to make sure some of his halal meat comes from his own hands. After all, hunting for food is in his blood. Male relatives have hunted for rabbits, pheasants, ducks, and deer for decades. His great grandfather sailed from Cape Verde and was involved in the whaling industry of Nantucket Island, Mass.
For his latest hunt in August, Yasin went into the Sierra Mountains with a few friends to hunt for deer, although he came back with nothing to show for his efforts. The time in the woods, though, was well spent, he said.
“It’s a medicine that no doctor can prescribe,” he said. “It’s medicine for the soul to have this proximity to creation.”
Originally published on www.thedailybeast.com